CX Worlds22 Team Relay
Team USA

Team USA Places Second in Team Relay Test Event at Cyclocross World Championships

By: Tom Mahoney  January 28, 2022

The World Championships held an inaugural test event for the Team Relay with the U.S. fielding two teams placing second and fifth.

The 2022 Walmart UCI Cyclocross World Championships kicked off the event on Friday with the Team Relay. The Team Relay is arguably one of the most exciting events in cycling. At UCI events, there are similar events at Road and Mountain Bike World Championships, but never in cyclocross until now. This year was the first Team Relay at a UCI Cyclocross World Championships. As this is the first event of its kind, it was considered a test event and not marked as a championships event. USA Cycling has been running relays at their National Championships for several years and has been a staple in collegiate cycling.

Typically, in the Team Relay events, there are two Elites, two U23s, and two Juniors of each gender that make up the country’s team, a total of six riders. Although many countries were not able to field complete teams due to the pandemic, the UCI made an exception for a four-person team consisting of two Elites and two U23s or Juniors of each gender. Because of the exception, countries were also allowed to field more than one team, prompting the U.S. to start two squads in the event.

The A team included Elite National Champions Eric Brunner (Boulder, Colo.; Blue-Stages Racing) and Clara Honsinger (Portland, Ore.; Cannondale p/b joined by U23 National Champions Scott Funston (Maple Valley, Wash.; Blue-Stages Racing) and Katie Clouse (Park City, Utah; Cannondale p/b

The B team included former Elite National Champion Gage Hecht (Parker, Colo.; Aevolo), U23 rider Madigan Munro (Boulder, Colo.; Trek Factory Racing), Jack Spranger (Sammamish, Wash.; Bear National Team), and Junior National Champion Katherine Sarkisov (North Potomac, Md.; CX Hairs Devo/ Trek Bikes).

Riders saw completely dry conditions on the course, which differed from what they raced for the Fayetteville UCI World Cup earlier in the season. Even though there’s no precipitation, the course was still slick, from the ground thaw.

Hecht and Brunner took to the start line for their respective teams. The first lap was just as fast as expected, with the group staying together for the first half lap. Belgium attacked on the most challenging climb on the course, with Hecht not far behind. After lap one, Daan Soete (BEL) finished 8-seconds ahead of the next ride, USA’s Brunner. Brunner made the hand-off to Clouse with Hecht tagging in Munro.

On lap two, the head of the race changed from Belgium to Italy to the Czech Republic, with countries battling for the rest of the lap. Colorado Mesa University teammates Clouse and Munro sat in third and fifth, respectively. Clouse tagged Cannondale p/b teammate Honsinger and Munro put in Junior rider Sarkisov.

Honsinger, one of the biggest names in this relay, was out for the challenge of closing the 28-second gap to the lead. Honsinger rode her classic style of racing with a bit of a slow start, then charged toward the end of the lap. She closed the gap and made the pass on Italy, taking second place and was right on the tail of race leader, the Czech Republic. Honsinger tagged in Funston.

Funston was immediately on the gas on the last lap, taking over the lead with Italy right behind. The battle was on between Funston and Italy’s U23 rider Davide Toneatti. By the time the riders reached the 38-steps, Toneatti had created a bit of a gap on Funston as they climbed up the stairway. It was too big of a gap for Funston to close, and Italy would take the win with the USA-A Team finishing just 7-seconds back. Spranger rode it in for Team USA-B, finishing in fifth.

Funston commented on his lap, “It felt great. It was a fun and tight race with Italy and trying to hold off Belgium trying to make sure they didn’t catch up. It was a really hard lap especially going up the hill. Then the second half of the lap, it’s hard to hold on to that effort. It is really fun. I’ve done several of these on Mountain Bike and Cyclocross at the collegiate level, so to do it on the world level is just even that much better, especially in front of the home crowd!”

The two Elite racers on the team were both happy with the event and are looking forward to hopefully racing it in years to come.

Honsinger loved the unity of the event and being able to dial in the course. She said,

“I had a great time. It was really fun to have an opportunity to work as a team because we don’t get to do that very often in cyclocross. Then it was also fun to see the other teams on the start line there as one big group. It really feels like the nations brought together. Then getting out and riding the course at race pace. You don’t really get to do that very much in training laps because there’s always going to be somebody on the course. So, it felt really good to dial it in.”

Brunner also commented, “I thought it was a really fun event. It was a little more low-key than the main race, obviously, and I like that. I like that it gets everyone involved from all the categories, and it’s a really nice opener for the weekend. It was fun for me to get out here and see the course at race pace and get the legs going for Sunday.”

Honsinger is going into tomorrow’s Elite Women’s race as one of the favorites. When asked about what she is looking forward to the most, she said, “Going out with a bang! It’s been a fun build-up to this event. It hasn’t been the process of just one season; it’s been many years, and so to actually get to it, it feels a little bit surreal. I’m really excited to give it my all and hopefully come out of it with some hardware or a new jersey.”


Mixed Team Relay Test Event

1. Italy 31:00

2. USA-A +0:07

3. Belgium +0:16

5. USA-B +0:48

Tomorrow’s events will start with the Junior Women’s race at 11:00 am C.T. Then the Men’s U23 at 1:00 pm and the final race of the day being the Elite Women’s race at 2:30 pm. Watch all the races live on the Global Cycling Network. Make sure to follow @USACycling across all channels, especially @USACyclingLIVE on Twitter, for live updates throughout the week along with @UCI_CX.

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